Today I want to take a moment to talk a tiny bit about what has been going on in the news, more specifically about the Dallas shootings of five police officers. My eyes are tearing up just thinking about the senseless killing of those who constantly put themselves into danger, running straight towards the danger, to keep us safe here at home. Most people dislike cops, especially if we are thinking of a particular cop in Biddeford, ME who has been known to pull drivers over for one mile over the speed limit. But one bad apple really doesn’t ruin the pile. Here is another essay I wrote while in college for my Cultural Anthropology class. We were told to interview someone important and ask them to explain a topic from their perspective. I wasn’t sure who to interview until I checked Facebook. Seeing one of his famous posts about the “Sea Hag”, I knew that I had to interview one of my favorite people, Drew who I had the wonderful opportunity to work with at Security at my school.
One more little background story before I show my essay (who only 4 pairs of eyes have seen so far), is how I met Drew. I had just started working at Facilities as a work study and someone called in that one of the cigarette boxes on campus was full and needed to be emptied. A bunch of officers were crowded around the front desk preparing for the Bush Lecture Series at the University and I asked my boss, and anyone who heard me, if there was a specific term to call a cigarette box. Drew, with the biggest grin, looked at me an said “Butt Box”. Stunned, I smiled (because who would ever think someone would say that) and stated I wasn’t going to write that in a work order. Ever since that day, he exclaims, “Hey Butt Box!” when I see him. Anyways, here is the paper I wrote about what it was like for him to be a New York City Police Officer. [Drew, If you are reading this, I hope you liked my paper and hope I got it right.]
“If it wasn’t for stupidity, I wouldn’t have a job.” – Drew
She was about to jump. A thirteen year old girl stood at the edge of the roof looking down. As she leaned forward over the side, Drew instinctively reached for her and grabbed ahold of the belt loops of her pants. As her body left the roof, it pulled Drew with it, his body leaning forward over the side. The thought running through his mind was that it was going to hurt if they both went over. Drew’s partner quickly grabbed onto of Drew’s gun-belt and held on tight. Rescue teams hastily made their way to the roof and pulled all of them to safety. Drew received a medal for this brave act and when I mentioned how amazing this was, he replied that it was just a part of the job and it’s just what you do when you are a cop.
Drew had always wanted to be a cop, just like his father who had been an officer and detective in New York City for 30 years. So, in January of 1987, Drew Palmer was offered a position in NYC as a Police Officer. Still enlisted in the Navy, he had to wait to begin his dream career until July of ‘87. In his 25 years of working on the force, Drew has seen a wide spectrum of incidents happen; both good and bad. His favorite part of the job was the time on his motorcycle. When asked about it, he said that being on his motorcycle was so much fun and that he essentially got paid to beat up the bikes. Even his computer background here at security is a NYPD motorcycle with the George Washington Bridge in the background, and I am sure he takes pride in the photo every time he glances at it. As with the best part of the job, inevitably there is the worst. Drew responded that the worst part of the job was having to notify family members that their child or spouse was in an accident and didn’t make it. To cope with having to deal with death and grieving family members, he says that you just gotta move onto the next thing and not think too much about it.
In my interview with Drew, I asked him if there was any time that the job was rewarding, and if there was anything that was annoying or frustrating. The most rewarding was when he saved that girl from jumping off of the roof of a building. When it came to annoying or frustrating, there were two answers. As an officer, he never actively sought out something to do, there is always plenty to keep you busy in New York City. His job was reactive, not proactive. When he would pull someone over for speeding and the person would become defensive saying they were only being pulled over to meet some quota, Drew would reply that if they hadn’t blown past him going 100 mph, he probably wouldn’t have noticed them speeding. That aspect is always annoying, and as he said, it was hard to just sit back and watch people do stupid things. One of the stories he has told me about his old precinct, Greenwich Village, is all the drug junkies who would be wandering around. He could tell you where they went to buy their next fix and where they went after. He has told me a couple times how they would pick up these druggies and either put them on a train to a different city or drive them to Jersey City and let them loose, just so they wouldn’t have to write reports and let the cops in those locations deal with them. It was hard watching those people throw away what they had for drugs but in the end it’s their choice. Drew was just there to pick up the pieces.
What I believe to be the worst part of the job was the wondering why. Why did they do this or how could someone hurt another human being. In cases such as child abuse or rape, it has always bugged Drew at how someone could do these things. He recalled that on rape cases, most times if a woman was the victim, she would only talk to a woman officer, which is totally understandable. On some cases they don’t mind talking to male officers such as Drew, and he recalled that there was this one woman who refused to let Drew leave her side for three days. This woman didn’t even wish to talk to her husband, who was out of town for the week, but insisted Drew stay by her side. And he did.
On a lighter note, they all loved to prank one another. As I like to say, If you can’t have a little fun what’s the point? Well the NYPD definitely embraced this. One of the most memorable stories that I asked Drew to recall for me was one of my favorite stories. This story takes place one night when Drew and his partner came across another cop car that was parked and the door was left open. To prank them, they had this homeless guy go into the back of the open cruiser and let him fall asleep laying on the seat. Drew and his partner returned to their car and watched the whole show. When the two officers got into the cruiser, they were bickering about who was making the car smell (not knowing there was a passenger in the back) when all of a sudden the homeless man sat up and began yelling. This terrified the officers but made Drew and his partner laugh until their sides hurt. When Drew is telling this story, you can’t help but die laughing along with him. Those in Drew’s precinct were all close and would often make their way, after work, to one of bars in the area for a drink. Drew even showed me many pictures of the gang all relaxing together and having a great time.
When he retired from NYPD, it was not because he wanted to. He would still be working there now if he had it his way, however it was at the urging of his wife who was concerned for his safety, that he reluctantly left the city to move out here to Maine with his two daughters. When they moved out here, Drew got a job working private security however wasn’t really happy with that job. There happened to be an open position here at the university for the security department. With his experience from New York and his time in the Navy, he easily won over the bosses and got the job. He has been working here for the past 4 years.
The fact that Drew stayed with the rape case woman for three days, as well as in the beginning of this paper, risked his life to save someone (and to do it without a second thought), is amazing and it makes my heart swell with pride. When I think of Drew, I think of this crazy guy who has practically no language filter (if you really know him) and works at our school but he is really so much more. He is a husband, a father to two beautiful girls, a Navy veteran, a retired Police Officer from one of the craziest cities in the country, and a valued member of the Security Department. Whether he truly realizes it or not, Drew is a hero. He has saved many people’s lives, delivered a few babies, and touched even more hearts than anyone I have ever met before. Although I did not know him in NYC, I am happy to have gotten to know him here, and he has certainly changed my life for the better just by knowing him.
After reading about this incredible person I know, and if he is reading this inflating his ego a little more 😉 , I still cannot understand who people dislike cops. Drew has risked his life many times to save complete strangers and wanted to keep on doing it. He was trying to make the city a safer place and although it’s the city that never sleeps, I am certain he did help to make it better. Here is the story of one officer, but it is also similar to all the other officers out there. The police, risk their lives to save us, but if we continue to have crazy people shooting at them, who is going to save them? Police officers deserve so much more than they are receiving. The maltreatment and disrespect needs to end, everyone’s life is equally important as the next persons, and we are all human so we need to start showing each other the respect and courtesy we all want and need.
[Photo credit to Richard T. from Facebook]